“…the parallel between QAnon and the more extremist blogger/Salmond support is stark, and should send a warning to us. Keep Alba in our sights, and when we see bigotry challenge it as we would in our workplaces. We can’t in any way endorse a party that is a receptacle for regressive views and policies that belong on the Alt right.”
Some time ago a friend was standing in a public place, watching a performance of some sort when, from behind, she felt the unwelcome closeness of a body. Quick as a flash she turned, grabbed the stranger by the shoulders, and shuffled him in front of her before he could react. “You stay there where I can keep an eye on you” she told the silenced stranger.
This incident came to mind as events moved on apace following Alex Salmond’s launch of his new party Alba. Within hours Twitter and Facebook profiles appeared bearing the Alba logo. Before the evening was out, another pop-up Indy party Action For Independence (AFI), fresh from announcing their candidates for the forthcoming Scottish Government election, had thrown in the towel, or possibly hoped to widen their horizon.
It’s not just the sex pest element of my tale that made me think of Alex’s Alba, it’s the neatly packaged pawns in his game, all lined up ready to be played, right there in plain sight to be challenged, blocked ignored or processed as required.
The opposition parties bluster and belch all over the place about the appropriation of the election campaign by the on-going spat between Sturgeon and Salmond, knowing full well that this was his grenade, and that she is only too pleased to walk away from a brutal Witch Hunt with her head still intact. Former Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell and Tory Leader in Waiting Douglas (Murray) Ross would like to rally the Unionist Troops for another coup. The last one worked so spectacularly well after all.
The D’Hont system is notoriously hard to game, and the prospect of an SNP overall majority that was never supposed to happen became a reality in 2011, initiating the 2014 referendum. It could happen again if the polls are anything to go by. Maybe the muscle memory of the last one is firmly associated with Salmond, but if this sad spectre of a man had the back of the Unionist parties and the media only a week or so ago, before Nicola Sturgeon was fully vindicated from any breaches of the ministerial code by the Hamilton report, he is once again recognised as the vengeful ego-manic Handy Man who dodged a bullet in 2020.
If the opposition are in a fluster, without a doubt the bizarre spectre of Salmond’s second coming is a gift to the media in what appeared to be shaping up to be an anti-climax of an election campaign after the drama of previous week. Journalist David Leask pinned Alex Salmond to “oddballs and outliers” in the movement. Few could argue with that, notwithstanding the fact that the Unionists side has pretty much the monopoly on oddballs and outliers, the entire Orange Lodge included. Nevertheless, the malignant Indy bloggers, spearheaded by Stu Campbell/Wings flank and elevate Salmond to the point of near mysticism. That’s populism for you. Even Yesterday’s Men can move with the times in that direction.
Prof John Curtice has a permanent seat at the pre-election table. While he can meander effortlessly through a trend of polls that show dips and waves and twists and turns, but still basically look good for the SNP in May, he is no more equipped to predict the actual Salmond effect on the election than anyone else at this point.
He considers the possibility that it may taint the independence movement by association and basically scunner people, but it took long enough for the recent enquiry to catch fire in the sphere of the general public, and Salmond comes out of it with a negative popularity rating in inverse proportion to the FM’s popularity rating. The consensus of opinion hovers somewhere around vengeful, narcissistic, disingenuous and definitely not sorry to the women at the heart of the original complaints. And not ready to move on, despite his announced intention to do so only two days before the Alba launch, at a press conference where he indicated his ongoing hunger for Scottish Government scalp.
Despite Salmond’s increasingly lived-in aura, his mantel of victimhood and the amateur nature of his launch, including the somewhat awkward stooshie around the mispronunciation of Alba, he still does PR. If that damns with faint praise so be it. He’s a big beast in the ‘Gammon’ sense of the word, and talks a good game, but he is a discredited politician who resents and despises the First Minister. To announce that his game-plan is to maximise the Yes vote by encouraging SNP in the constituency vote and Alba in the regional vote is enough to make a mere sceptic fashion a tin foil hat.
The Alba plan was not hurriedly hatched this week. It certainly reeks of compensatory plan B, for a man who could realistically have been First Minister of an independent Scotland in 2014, but it would have been quite a different launch had Sturgeon been forced into resignation. For a man who tapped into every available resource, including Tory David Davies to further his destruction of the Scottish Government and the First Minister, there is nothing about this stunt that suggests anything other than a malevolent take-over attempt in the longer run.
As for the high profile SNP defectors. Good riddance seems to be the vibe emanating from within the party. From a non-party aligned perspective with plenty of reservations about our governing party, it does make the SNP look more attractive and progressive by the day. I can’t be bothered writing their names, and the list is not conclusive.
If it all seems explosive in the Social Media sphere and in contrived Mainstream Media circles, it’s a good time to remember that all of this remains packaged within a bubble. The public just do not like Salmond. Many didn’t vote Yes in 2014 because of him. Conversely, Nicola Sturgeon has grown in popularity outside of the Yes movement.
In an interview with Salmond on the evening of the Alba launch Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy demonstrated that UK wide, he is permanently associated with complaints and grievance. Krishnan deftly steered Alex away from the hale-fellow-well-met persona that he was trying hard to establish. Instead, we were not, and should not be allowed to forget the route that brought Salmond and the movement to this sorry impasse today. Would he like another chance to say sorry to the women? Nup.
In an article in today’s National (29/3/21) Economist George kerevan surmised
“I suspect Alba will soon solidify as a genuine social democratic party somewhat to the left of the SNP, and with an experienced membership capable of sustaining itself and mass campaigning.”
Cue almost audible gasps from The National’s Facebook readers who are not widely known for their incisive analysis. Kerevan also alludes to the association between the creation of Alba and the upheaval of the part of the movement who began to identify as the new grass roots body, organised by All Under One Banner.
As a fly on the virtual wall at that inaugural event, I can certainly confirm the presence of a widely disparate bunch of malcontents and can confess to having a look to see if there was anything for me there. However while Kerevan focuses on the issues raised by Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission report going forward, a rogues gallery of wreckers and spoilers had also tuned in for the day, and for the duration.
The perfect storm that gathered up the conclusion of the Salmond enquiry, the ‘Plan B ers’, the anti Hate Crime and Gender Recognition legislation and the SG elections has nicely syphoned an amorphous group of people into one party, and left wing it is not.
Like every other group Alba is and will continue to develop a membership with a spectrum of views. If Kerevan’s analysis serves any purpose at all it should remind us of this. For all that, I find it hard to stomach the growing choir of voices calling for a truce between the SNP and those newly settled behind their Salmond banner. The party born out of grievance, revenge and ego cannot and should not be readily accepted into the Indy fold in the wake of a near coup against the party, the government and the First Minister. The dog-whistling against Gender Reform will continue, and anyone believing that Salmond is now a voice for women is only propping up the patriarchy.
The Both Votes SNP and the SNP1/ Alba 2 debate will continue. I don’t intend to take on the mantle of amateur psephologist that so many have recently. It’s SNP 1/Green 2 for me, because I want to support an Indy party with policies relevant to our times, where the continued existence of the planet trumps one man’s ego. While Douglas Ross has expressed a minding to game the system in tit for tat response to Alba, I remain of the opinion that this, and the development of pop-up parties, including George Galloway’s pro union project, is a disingenuous pursuit that goes against the spirit of the parliament.
Talking of Trump, the parallels between QAnon and the more extremist blogger/Salmond supporters is stark, and should send a warning to us. Keep Alba in our sights, and when we see bigotry challenge it as we would in our workplaces. We can’t in any way endorse a party that is a receptacle for regressive views and policies that belong on the Alt right.